Open thread for episode #943: Russell and Lynnea


I wish to offer a correction: During the show a caller named Jason claimed that burqas are banned in Australia. We were not able to fact check this claim while doing a live show, but accepted it at face value. As numerous people have now pointed out, there is no such law, although a rule was briefly instituted which prevented people from wearing burqas in parliament. The rule was quickly overturned. We regret the error.

Comments

  1. OrphanBlackOps says

    You guys need to learn when to hang up on a caller. You are wasting my time by letting unproductive conversations go on.

  2. nevilleneville says

    The Levantine crusades had as much to do with politics as religion. The idea that the Crusades were an unmerited bloodbath is fundamentally unsound. But I suspect that the quality of education has something to do with that.

  3. Peggy says

    I’ve always wanted to learn about the Levantine crusades and how they had as much to do with politics as religion. I’ve always suspected that the Crusades were so much more than an unmerited bloodbath. This is my chance to remediate my poor education!

  4. nevilleneville says

    I was commenting on the standard of education taught on the subject, not the students themselves. Few are taught about the religious genocide the Arabian conquests caused or the ethnic/cultural mission it was on. The spread of Islam is in itself a warcrime.

  5. Abraham Van Helsing says

    @ OrphanBlackOps #1

    They finally get an interesting whack job to call in, and you want them to cut it short? You can’t watch someone hang themselves unless you give them a little rope. Plus, it prompted some great lines from Linnea:

    How do you know you are in Texas?…. “The government told us.”
    “How do these people live?” (Reminds me of Elaine Benes on Seinfeld saying “I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things!”

  6. Peggy says

    In what century? I’m somewhat familiar with Caliph Abu Bakr and his famous parting words: “Be just and abjure evil and tyranny, for no nation which is unjust prospers or achieves victory over its enemies…Be just and abjure evil and tyranny, for no nation which is unjust prospers or achieves victory over its enemies.”

    Maybe you could help me to understand.

  7. nevilleneville says

    If you know as much as you do why do you need me to educate you, It would be a little rude of me to lecture you. I would also hope that you would grasp why it was such an awful event for the people of the region.

  8. Peggy says

    @nevilleneville: I would never assume I knew as much as you. Please enlighten me–and everyone on this thread–about what the few are taught about the religious genocide that the Arabian conquests uniquely caused. And, of course, the Crusades were not an unmerited bloodbath. That would be fundamentally unsound, right?

    When you say that the spread of Islam is in itself a warcrime, you must have something in mind. Don’t be shy. For most of us, real things are so complicated and causation is so over-determined. I sense you have a key to simplicity.

    We can be redeemed from the poor quality of our education. Why are you holding back?

  9. nevilleneville says

    You seem somewhat fixated on me, Peggy As I said, just read up on the conquests, starting with the Rashidun Caliphs and onwards and it is quite easy to see the exploitation and marginalisation of the people of the area, and the implementation of an Islamic state.

    I’ve given you a good starting point, now anyone can start to read up on the topic. Just your standard religious nutters who decided that they were guided by God to conquer and kill those who wasn’t quite sure Muhammad was the last prophet of Allah.\

  10. daffypig says

    If “Mustaffa” wants to come appear as educated as he claims to be, he should probably drop the Pittsburghese accent, ESPECIALLY the word “yinz”. Christ on a bike, it does NOT make you sound intelligent…

  11. jeffh123 says

    As for wearing burkas, one problem is performing a function that requires identification. Driving for instance. You need your picture on your drivers’ license and a peace officer needs to be able to identify you during a traffic stop. Also includes obstruction of vision during driving. What about travel? TSA will not let you fly if you cannot identify yourself.

  12. Glen Stevens says

    Not sure where Jason is getting his info from, but burqas are not banned in Australia.
    There was a kerfuffle about them a while back, when some women was charged with assaulting a police officer, but she was eventually let off because they couldn’t positively identify her, due to her wearing a burqa at the time. This lead to a new law which gave police the power to demand a burqa be removed to identify them, and refusal could lead to arrest, but that’s it.

  13. Peter Jetnikoff says

    Just for the record, there is no law preventing anyone from wearing a burka in Australia.

  14. Monocle Smile says

    @OrphanBlackOps
    Then stop watching. Let the door hit you on the way out. Nobody is wasting your time.

  15. Monocle Smile says

    @nevilleneville
    Smug concern trolling again? You must be fun at parties. Peggy has an important point, and it’s entirely unsurprising that it’s flying over your head.

  16. Mobius says

    To me, the response to Mr. “Why do you ask for evidence?” is simple. They consider their god character to be real, and they expect me to believe in him too. That is where the request for evidence comes in. They can believe without evidence all they want, but if they expect me to believe, show me the evidence.

  17. nevilleneville says

    @Monocle Smile

    Christ, son. I’m most likely more fun than you, telling people to go away if you don’t dig what they are saying. So what if he didn’t like ramblers, who are you to judge him or her?

    Please explain the point then? Maybe PZ will give you a gold star if you act superior enough.

  18. Robert,+not+Bob says

    Ah, Mustafa’s a troll all right. He called in to verbally tear the hosts apart for the sheer joy of it. Probably a fairly bright person who thinks he’s smarter than everyone around him. He was quite unnecessarily nasty and belligerent-more so than most theistic callers. What an unpleasant person.

    I’ve pointed out to a couple of Adventist acquaintances that Ben Carson is exactly what the church has always said it opposed, and of course they just don’t see it. I always suspected hypocrisy on that issue, and it’s surprising how disturbing it is to find I was right.

    I found the last call a bit incoherent.

  19. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    This might sound weird, but I’m actually kind of reassured by the guy who called in and questioned who you can be sure states exist.
    I think it’s very important for us to have reminders that using skeptical language and taking what you assume to be the intellectually superior stance is no guarantee that you’re actually a good skeptic or a rational person. I’ve seen more intense and diffuse irrationality from people falling prey to this weird hyperskepticism than any other group. Even moon landing deniers & 9/11 truthers tend to be reasonable on at least some topics unrelated to their pet cause, but those guys are just baffling. I mean, seriously, being surprised that there could be evidence of something that’s a social construct? That’s just weird.

  20. Russell Glasser says

    If Mustaffa wasn’t “real” then I don’t know what anyone actually thinks he was. I run into his type plenty in real life: smug atheist pseudo-intellectuals who have latched on to some philosophical weirdness or other, and rant at people at every opportunity for failing to accept his “deep thoughts” on subjects that have real thinkers have been grappling with for hundreds of years. Just last month I went to dinner after the show and got roped into a live argument with a really hardcore right wing anarchist, who kept insisting over and over that it was his right to personally “secede” from the United States and be his own personal nation that is not subject to any laws. If we had let him head down that road, it sounded very much like Mustaffa would have happily gone that route too.

    If you told me someone like him would call the show and would be sincere about the beliefs he was presenting, I would not treat it as an extraordinary claim.

  21. Russell Glasser says

    The idea of denying that the governments or states “exist,” because they are abstract concepts that are defined by the relationships between people, strikes me as a really extreme, but oddly specific way to object to them. It’s one thing to be politically opposed to having a government. That’s not a position that I identify with, but it’s still a real position that you can take some action on. But staking out a position that “I do not recognize human defined relationships at all” seems to throw out a stupidly high number of valid concepts.

    Do you suppose Mustaffa would deny that families exist? Or, once I am born, is the relationship with my mother a fiction from the past? If I say that my child lives in my home and I am responsible for him, would Mustaffa say that I’m deluding myself, because my child’s birth certificate is just words written on a piece of paper by humans who don’t know what they’re talking about?

    Does friendship “exist”? If I say “I have a friend who lives downtown,” would Mustaffa treat this as an extraordinary claim because my so-called “friendship” doesn’t have any tangible manifestation?

    I’m actually curious what he would have said to these questions… but not curious enough that I wish I had wasted more time letting him rant on the air.

  22. Ian Brazier says

    Australia does not have any legal ban on people wearing the burqa. Free fact check! You are welcome.

  23. Rick Pikul says

    @jeffh123 #15

    As for wearing burkas, one problem is performing a function that requires identification.

    A very common allowance for that is that it is permissible for her to reveal her face for that specific purpose. Generally in as private of a way as possible and to a female official if one is available.

  24. Russell Glasser says

    Helpful (?) information: I was listening again to Mustaffa’s call, and when we were asking if he believes in God or not, he dropped the term “via negativa”. At the time I just joked “What the hell are you talking about?” and the call was already so heated by then, that this slipped right on by.

    But I googled the term, and came up with this Wikipedia article, that might be an interesting read for some people.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophatic_theology
    “Apophatic theology (from Ancient Greek: ἀπόφασις via ἀπόφημι apophēmi, meaning “to deny”), also known as negative theology, via negativa or via negationis (Latin for “negative way” or “by way of denial”), is a type of theological thinking that attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It stands in contrast to cataphatic theology.”

  25. says

    I wish you guys could have spent more time with Mustaffa explaining to him that Christians don’t believe that Jesus is an abstract idea but a physical, living god and getting his reaction to that. Shouldn’t we be able to demand physical evidence for that? You brought up the burning bush, and the bible is chock full of example of God or Jesus physically interacting with us.

    Also, how do people still not know to turn the goddamn live stream off when they call in?

  26. Russell Glasser says

    I actually thought Lynnea’s response was pretty good. Rather than assume by default that all “gods” are referring to Christian theology, Norse gods and such should also be on the table. And those are even more concrete.

  27. Monocle Smile says

    @Russell
    What bought the farm for me was the “do you believe in a god” exchange.
    – “Are you a believer?”
    – “No.”
    – “So you’re an atheist”
    – “[non sequitur]”
    – “Do you believe in something that you identify as a god?”
    – “Eh, yeah, kinda.”
    This was a big WTF moment for me. I guess even if Mustaffa was real, I don’t find people like him worth treating as if they’re real.

  28. Sebastian says

    I still surprised how people can see outlawing burkas as a problem.

    The reason is simple

    Is a non Muslim allowed to go over the street masked

    if the answer is NO then religion is no excuse.

  29. Bill Muller says

    As much as I find the idea of the burqa abhorrent, if they were really banned in Australia (and as has been previously stated the caller was completely wrong with his information), I would be one of the first to protest.

    I don’t want our Police to be arresting people for wearing a certain type of clothing.

    I would really like to know to where Jason got his misinformation from?

  30. says

    I thought you did a great job with Mustafa. And, Lynnea, I think I work with that guy’s brother. You had him when you brought up gravity, which is why he changed the subject to the existence of states. I don’t think a technical philosophical answer would have satisfied him, although it would keep him from interacting with average people, so that’d be good.
    I see his argument as similar to my conspiracy friends who say doctors aren’t telling the truth about something like their inability to cure cancer. They say it is more profitable to not cure it. What I say is that I know people from when they were children who have now gone through med school. They didn’t go there and come back and say they were taught something that disagrees with the world that they and I know. The lies would have to be not just about specific cancer research, but about med schools and they would have to their students to lie, and get earlier levels of education to lie, as well as governments and organizations that specifically state their goal is to be a watchdog for the medical community. All of these are people that you can potentially meet personally, ask questions, look at their credentials, have them explain their reasoning, on and on.
    Sure, it’s a social construct, and if enough people really do lie, and get caught, the trust in that construct could fall apart, and those credentials would be meaningless. But that hasn’t happened. You could replace “politician” into the above and make the same argument for the existence of Texas.

  31. CTopf says

    I think a law on what bodyparts must be shown in public is fine as long as there are laws telling you what bodyparts must be covered. Both are (or would be) based on the subjective notion that it just makes most people uncomfortable to see a naked person or a woman that doesn’t want to show her face for no obvious reason. I even would go so far as to suggest that there is enough evidence in evolutionary biology on why it is that members of a social species have a desire to read other peoples facial expressions.
    What would be your response to this?

  32. y ddraig goch says

    Hi Russell

    I would really like to have heard your comments about Ryan Bell’s Guardian article re Carson (if I’m allowed to post links [first time posting] the article is here http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/06/seventh-day-adventists-put-faith-over-science-and-reason-ben-carson ). You tried a couple of times, but were rudely interrupted by callers!

    Though this has probably been addressed innumerable times, in videos and blogs here, and this may well not be the place to raise such a complex issue, there are a couple of points I’d like to raise:

    1) the way 7th Day Adventism reads to me (I’m no expert) and the way I interpret Adventists’, including Carson’s, views re a ‘second coming’ (though I’m guessing that should be 3rd right? We’re approaching ‘multi-orgasmic here.) are that they actually YEARN for it, they want it to happen, ‘the sooner the better’? And Carson is being seriously considered, by way too many purportedly intellectual people, to be a ‘front runner’ in the race to become ‘the leader of the free world’? The word ‘insane’ is bandied around, perhaps, too often these days, but, to me anyway, I see no clearer and more appropriate term to use: these people are insane. Which leads me nicely onto…

    2) Ryan, in his article, says ‘[w]e should not require a test of faith or non-faith for elected officials’. Which, to me, says ‘we should allow anyone, regardless of their levels of sanity, to hold positions of office, including the highest of all (not a god, a President)’. Surely, if any elected official position SHOULD be vetted, it should be the highest (and most powerful, i.e. ‘finger on button’ stuff) of all? I find this to be completely nonsensical, let alone existentially (that is, in terms of the continued existence of humanity and a place so to do) dangerous, M-A-D, and all that.

    Anyway, I’ve written enough, so I’ll leave it there for now. I’d welcome your thoughts, and indeed anyone else’s, on this.

    Best Wishes.

    y ddraig goch

  33. Peggy says

    @nevilleneville (comment 22) No, after interacting with you a few times I can say that, no, you are not “more fun” than, well, most people I speak with. I see your smugness and your very high opinion of your own poorly thought through contributions. I’m going to guess you were likely homeschooled and that you were too often unjustifiably told that you were brilliant. I hope you take this well.

  34. Robert,+not+Bob says

    @y ddrag #37:
    As I recall, Adventists have always been, as a group, ambivalent about anticipating the Second Coming-yes, second, since the 1844 event is interpreted as being a change of celestial bookkeeping-or dreading the lead up to it (in which Adventists will be the Jews of the next Holocaust). I suspect that now, just as Christian dominionists don’t-or won’t-see parallels with Islamists, today’s Adventists don’t-or won’t-see what Carson’s brand of theology is. Probably just because then they’d be among the ruling class.

  35. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @Sebastian, 33

    Is a non Muslim allowed to go over the street masked
    if the answer is NO then religion is no excuse.

    What if the answer is YES?

  36. says

    o…m…g…!

    i ran into a creature like “mustafa” on the youtube comment thread for “The Atheist Experience – One of Jeff Dee’s Best Responses (367)”.

    “chuckm1961”: .. as if there will ever be ‘scientific’ evidence for the existence of ‘god.’ It is utter bullshit when atheists say they will “back down” when such evidence is produced. Of course such evidence will never be produced. God is a metaphor for the mysteries beyond human understanding.

    my response:

    “aarrgghh”: not sure why chuck’s knocking atheists for holding an honest position as a response to the concept(s) of god held by billions of believers worldwide. especially when his peculiar concept of god as metaphor is congruent with the atheist position. clearly, “waiting for scientific evidence” is not a logical response to a metaphor, nor was it ever intended to be. it just means that it’s just not an issue atheists need to have a response to.

    i haven’t said more, though i’ve been strongly tempted, since the conversation continues. but after hearing mustafa, i’ve decided to let this cuckoo go.

    “chuck”, like “mustafa”, insists that his mythical “god” is the god that atheists object to, while ignoring that he’s ridiculously outnumbered by folks who believe in a god that manifests, which is the actual being that atheists demand evidence for.

    if you insist that god is just a metaphor or any other kind of purely conceptual object, atheists have no argument with you. we already agree!

  37. says

    Does anyone believe that people would pray, sing songs to Jesus, build nativities, force their children to do plays about Moses, or say “praise the Lord” all the time if they thought god was just a concept that united their community and represented mystery?

  38. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To aarrgghh:
    I think my reply to this particular nonsense:

    God is a metaphor for the mysteries beyond human understanding.

    Is:
    If it’s not understandable, then stop talking about it as though you understand it. Stop making claims about it. Stop being upset with atheists who lack belief regarding it. And stop being upset when us atheists will attack you religious people for claiming to know things about something that is completely beyond human understanding.

    I find that most people like this are effectively dishonest. It’s a bait-and-switch. They offer the bait of something beyond human understanding, and then when the time comes they’ll switch it for something that they claim to know a thing or two about. They do happen to believe that they can know something about this “god” thing, despite stating plainly to the contrary. At best, people who speak like this are simply confused and don’t know what they’re talking about.

  39. says

    @ EnlightenmentLiberal:

    there are lots of good responses to chuck & his ilk, especially since as you say, he’s being “effectively dishonest”, which makes him no different from any other type of theist, especially the “sophistcated” type, who have to bend themselves into ever more seemingly (to them) gordian knots in order to explain a god that’s indistinguishable from pure fiction. once again we’re arguing about “the god of the gaps” and chuck explicitly admits this, while conveniently ignoring all the obvious and longstanding potholes in that route.

  40. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To continue, I think that people like the person quoted in my earlier post, that class of persons is also suffering from a misunderstanding of science – fostered by the obnoxious and wrong-headed notion of “methodological naturalism”. In short, persons who speak like this believe that there are two different kinds of understanding: 1- physical materialistic understanding of science, and 2- some other way of knowing regarding the nonmaterial and supernatural. That’s bullshit. Science is the only reliable way of knowing concerning the material and the non-material, the natural and the supernatural.

    (I’m using the proverbial form of “you”:) When we ask for evidence, we’re not asking for mere physical evidence. We’re asking you for all of the reasons that you have for your beliefs. Preferably you have some sort of observational experience of some kind which we can corroborate in some way. If you don’t have that, then yea, we atheists are probably not going to bite. That’s not a limitation of science. That just means that you don’t have sufficient reason to justify your beliefs.

  41. says

    @ EnlightenmentLiberal:

    When we ask for evidence, we’re not asking for mere physical evidence. We’re asking you for all of the reasons that you have for your beliefs. Preferably you have some sort of observational experience of some kind which we can corroborate in some way. If you don’t have that, then yea, we atheists are probably not going to bite.

    exactamundo.

    simply declaring their “god” to be outside of the reach of scientific inquiry and then tut-tutting atheists for demanding evidence of such a creature does not make them the winner. they’re just begging the question.

  42. Monocle Smile says

    fostered by the obnoxious and wrong-headed notion of “methodological naturalism”

    No, I don’t buy this at all. This is your pet peeve, but I continue to think that you have this backwards. That message might exacerbate an existing problem, but the people who think science can’t address gods or “supernatural” stuff don’t think that way because of Matt Dillahunty or anyone else who uses that term you so despise. They’re getting it from their pastor’s mouth. I’m not sure it even matters here that you’re correct about that term. I continue to hold the position that the second prong of NOMA is far and away a bigger issue than the first.

  43. nevilleneville says

    @Peggy

    Well you certainly read a lot into very little. And such a meanie as well. I shall ignore your drivel as the baseless ramblings it is. You and PZ should go on a date, you have a lot in common. I still await any argument that puts forward that the islamic conquests as anything other than genocide and destruction. Good luck with that.

    Regarding Mustafa, I am not sure if he is a believer or not, but he seems motivated by boredom and spoiling for an argument.

  44. Monocle Smile says

    @nevilleneville

    but he seems motivated by boredom and spoiling for an argument

    Speaking of people who have a lot in common…

  45. Paul Cornelius says

    @nevilleneville:

    The most famous episode in the Crusades was when Richard I of England went to fight in the Third Crusade. If we take religion out of the picture, it’s difficult to see any motive for this. He had to leave his kingdom in the hands of others and travel thousands of miles, in the hopes of capturing a small, remote desert city (Jerusalem). It’s the twelfth century – the entire Middle East couldn’t possibly be of vital national interest to England. Richard, like other Europeans of the day, believed that Jerusalem was sacred. It’s the Holy City, and the Infidels had taken it. Christianity had to get it back, and that’s a clear “reason” to go to war. That’s an example of why religion played an indispensable role in the Crusades. Perhaps it’s not the sole cause, but it was fundamentally a “holy war.”

    From Wikipedia: “A key distinction between the Crusades and other holy wars was that the authorization for the Crusades came directly from the pope,who claimed to be working on behalf of Christ.” My italics.

  46. nevilleneville says

    There are two narratives to the crusades. Progressives view the crusaders as terrible monsters and republicans view them as wholesome ventures. They were neither. The idea of papal blessing for conquest was hardly a novel idea. And the concept of crusading as a purely anti arab is also false. The Levantine crusade was aimed to stop Turkish interference with pilgrims, the Northern Crusade was against Pagan Wends and the Reconquista was against Moorish occupation.

    The Crusades motivations veer between religious beliefs as in the 3rd crusade and gaining wealth for the fourth. Each crusade has individual differences and motivations. What they all have in common though is gain favour with the papal authorities. A major political force and one that had great influence domestically. So in reality it is perfectly reasonable to view a crusader as an individual with a number of reasons to crusade and the crusades themselves as a political and religious event.

  47. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @nevilleneville
    Are you aware that this isn’t pharyngula? Why d’you keep bringing PZ up? It’s a bit weird.

  48. nevilleneville says

    Is he not the Pope around here? Quick question, how many of the hosts of the show are into Atheism+?

  49. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    Is he not the Pope around here?

    No. What do you think a pope is?

    Quick question, how many of the hosts of the show are into Atheism+?

    You do know that, aside from a defunct (as far as I’m aware) forum, atheism+ is just the idea that you can maintain more than one political or religious stance, right? Why does that ridiculous question keep coming up as if it’s somehow meaningful? What do you expect them to say? “No. I am an atheist alone. My mind is otherwise blank. BEEP BOOP.”

  50. Johannes Rasch says

    So, I’m sad to say that the facebook post about burkas being banned in Europe that jason was talking about comes from my country, Sweden. The far right party in Sweden, the Sweden democrats (sadly our 2nd larges party right now), sent people down to refugee camps in Greece and other countries with European borders and put propaganda in the refugee’s sleeping bags. These flyers stated among many other falsehoods that they should not go to Sweden and that burkas and niqab will be banned and that we have grenade attacks in public spaces (it was 1 grenade… last year, and it didn’t go of). Here is the flyer if you want to read it yourself, just remember that it’s all bullshit.

  51. Monocle Smile says

    @Athywren
    As this dude has demonstrated on multiple threads, he’s here to grind an ax in condescending concern-troll fashion, not to engage in discussion. Bringing up PZ Myers on this blog in an entirely unrelated thread is confirmation of this.

  52. Peggy says

    Oh, my. I leave for a day and my assumptions re a certain troll so nice he named himself twice are confirmed. I enjoyed the discussion about the Crusades.

  53. Russell Glasser says

    Yo, Neville, speaking in my capacity as moderator, I notice your comments are gradually getting less and less constructive. Maybe chill out a little bit?

  54. Abraham Van Helsing says

    @ Russell
    That apophatic theology stuff is interesting. Especially the second paragraph on the wiki :

    “An example occurs in the assertion of the 9th-century theologian John Scotus Erigena: “We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.”

    I could almost get on board with that. I would interpret “transcends being” as not real. I guess you have to transcend rationality in order to believe in him. (sarcasm, in case you can’t tell)

  55. Hippycow says

    @Monocle Smile #18

    I don’t think it is necessary to tell everyone who has feedback to go away. It reminds me of the old “atheists should get the hell out of America” nonsense. I thought part of the purpose of this forum was to give feedback on the show.

    Now, as far as OrphanBlackOps‘s actual feedback goes, we could say he (most likely) could be a little less arrogant in his presentation; telling other people what they “need to learn” is a bit pedantic and likely to engender a “fuck off, douchebag” kind of immediate response. We might also ask what a “productive” conversation is. Perhaps the show needs a direct line to OrphanBlackOps so they can ask, as it goes along, if the call is being sufficiently “productive?”

    As I remember, last week or the week before, this concept of “productive call” was discussed briefly. At the time I was a little mystified as to what exactly people were imagining. What precisely is it that these calls are producing, OrphanBlackOps? How do we determine how productive a call was and how much (of what?) it produced?

    @aarrgghh #41:

    Yeah, that’s just an equivocation fallacy. WLC loves to ply that sophistry. Ridicule you for not believing in “a metaphor” when we know that what 99.9% of believers worship are literal gods, not metaphors. The 0.1% (consisting of Karen Armstrong and chuckm1961) who imagine “metaphorical” or “conceptual” gods are a negligible minority and their fuzzy-wuzzy nigh-new-age beliefs are pretty irrelevant.

  56. Monocle Smile says

    @Hippycow
    I wasn’t telling OrphanBlackOps to go away. They said that their time was being wasted, so I offered them a solution.

  57. Hippycow says

    Treaty of Tripoli was the work of John Adams, not Washington, by the way.

    Burqas are open and public oppression of women. I am continually horrified at how privileged western white women defend the burqa and hijab. It is defending the man’s right to keep his woman (his personal property after all, right?) in a gunny sack.

  58. Russell Glasser says

    Well, Hippycow, all I can say is THANK GOD that middle eastern women have a man like you on their side, to simultaneously police their clothing, and scold western women for not helping you police their clothing better. The world can rest easy knowing that you’re fixing sexism by being horrified by the things that their tiny female brains can’t possibly grasp, or come up with legitimate opinions on.

  59. says

    I am continually horrified at how privileged western white women defend the burqa and hijab.

    I agree, but I’m also not sure it’s as simple as that, as there is a difference between “defending the burqa/hijab” and “defending the right to wear, or not to wear, the burqa/hijab”. Telling women they shouldn’t wear the burqa/hijab erases those that do choose to do it freely (yes, these people exist) and further oppresses those who rationally fear violence if they choose to not wear it. Also, saying the burqa/hijab is a good thing supports the people who don’t want women to have the choice. I’m not sure doing either of the above does any amount of good in the end. Pushing the meme that women should have the same rights as men, including the right to wear or not wear the burqa/hijab, seems far more productive than taking a black or white, good or bad stand on the burqa/hijab.

  60. Russell Glasser says

    Oh, you drop in to explain that opposing a ban on an article of clothing is the same thing as defending a man’s right to keep his woman as personal property, and you want to talk to me about straw men? How do you actually expect people to take you seriously when you’re so damn melodramatic all the time? It’s exactly the sort of conversation that I would hang up on, because you can’t be bothered to take people’s positions seriously.

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Russell
    I don’t think that’s fair.

    So, let me see if you disagree with me on some basic factual matters.

    For women who are raised in a culture where most women wear the burqa, they will probably wear the burqa. If those same women were raised in a different culture without the burqa (and without parental pressure to war it), then they will probably not wear the burqa. In other words, the wearing of the burqa is a learned behavior that varies culture to culture. Right? This seems pretty uncontroversial.

    We can ask objective scientific questions about what wearing the burqa has on a person. Wearing the burqa definitely inhibits socialization outside the home to some degree. It prevents some degree of expression of individuality. I think it’s well demonstrated that facial expressions are a large part of human communication. Wearing the burqa has a real and demonstrable effect of isolating a woman.

    By way of comparison, Stockholm syndrome is a thing. I think that the proper response to someone suffering Stockholm syndrome is to suggest that they get psychiatric help in order to overcome their feelings on the matter because they are “false”, or “bad”, or harmful. The feelings are definitely harmful.

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think that the majority reason for your post here is that you saw it as mansplaining. I’m sympathetic that we should be extremely cautious when a man explains to a woman that they’re living their life incorrectly, but I cannot accept that 1- it’s always wrong for a man to do so, and 2- the conclusion of the argument that the man is making is wrong; that’s the fallacy fallacy.

    I think that the cultural phenomenon of wearing the burqa is extremely harmful to women, and demonstrably so. I think that this is a demonstrable, objective, scientific fact, even if some people would disagree. I believe this in the same sense that vaccines are good for you even if some people would disagree.

    I think I am generally against laws that ban the wearing of the burqa, on the basis of right of self determination ala JS Mill. However, along those same lines, I think that it is allowed – I think that it is morally obligatory – for me to help someone by telling them that they’re living their life in a self destructive way.

    Finally, there might be some amount of cultural relativism going on here under the guise of multiculturalism. I implore you to fight that part of yourself and remove it. Sometimes some cultural practices are just better. Emancipation of women and outlawing rape in marriage? Better. Proper medical care instead of faith healing? Better. I implore you to fight that bad part of our left liberal culture that says it’s always bad to criticize other cultural practices if we’re not from that culture.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Russell

    Oh, you drop in to explain that opposing a ban on an article of clothing is the same thing as defending a man’s right to keep his woman as personal property

    Did he say that? Did he call for a ban on that article of clothing? I think that’s reading a little too far.

    Also, is it true that the burqa arose in a cultural context where it was one tool of many of oppression of women by men to keep women as slaves? Yes. It is true that the burqa still serves the same cultural role today of having the effect of keeping women socially isolated and thus dependent on their male masters? Yes.

    Maybe I’m just being too generous with Hippycow. I don’t know.

    PS: I’m really sympathetic for people who want to ban wearing of the burqa. It happens to violate my high value of right of self determination, which is why I cannot be for it. However, many people do believe that the government should tell them how to live their life for their own good, such as banning the recreational use of certain drugs. For those people, it seems entirely consistent and logical that they would also want to ban wearing this article of clothing which does have a real and demonstrable effect of keeping women socially isolated and dependent on their male masters.

  63. Russell Glasser says

    He was, presumably, referring to the show we just did, in which we discussed a (non-existent, it turns out) law against burqas in Australia. We explained why we would be against such a law, and that appears to be the context of his comment. So yes, unless he has some much more specific example in his head in which “western white women” (who?) “defend the burqa and hijab” (in what way?) that is exactly what he was saying: That the only choices we have are to ban an article of clothing, or support the treatment women as property.

    So while your nuance is surely a useful addition to the conversation, EL, this is far from the first time that Hippycow has freaked out and been horrified at how his fellow westerners are too dumb to stop the slow march of our enslavement by Muslim tyranny, because we don’t support the enforcement of arbitrary bullshit clothing policing, etc.

  64. Hippycow says

    EnlightenmentLiberal, thank you for eloquently and patiently laying that out. I agree entirely.

    I never said it was a simple and I didn’t even endorse banning burqas. It is a complex problem for the reasons EL mentions. Years of ruthless indoctrination and conditioning work well.

    Incidentally, I think all religious garb is divisive, not to mention often silly.

    “How do you actually expect people to take you seriously when you’re so damn melodramatic all the time?” LOL. Love that irony. Reminds me of “hyperbole will destroy the world!!!!”

  65. Hippycow says

    Golly, either I have a dual personality or someone hacked my log in. Apparently I am freaking out and being melodramatic all the time. Could you provide 10 or 20 examples of this frenzied hysteria, Russell? That should be easy, since this is happening all the time.

  66. Russell Glasser says

    “I never said it was a simple and I didn’t even endorse banning burqas.”

    Ok, then in that case help me out here. What horror were you talking about regarding “western women” who “defend the burqa and hijab?” Who SPECIFICALLY were you talking about, what did they say, and what did the fuck did it have to do with either Sunday’s show, or anything that was said on this thread?

    Make this good, because I’m in an irritable mood now and feeling very ambivalent about your status as a commenter.

  67. Hippycow says

    “Make this good, because I’m in an irritable mood and feeling very ambivalent about your status as a commenter.” — Really? Go ahead a ban me then. It’s your forum after all.

  68. says

    I think that the cultural phenomenon of wearing the burqa is extremely harmful to women, and demonstrably so. I think that this is a demonstrable, objective, scientific fact, even if some people would disagree.

    Do you think the harm has more to do with what is causing the “burqa wearing cultural phenomenon” than the phenomenon itself? Or is this the underlying cause part of what you mean when you say “demonstrable”? Russell said something to the effect on the show that any laws (existing or non-existing) that are attempting to ban the burqa are just treating the symptom of a problem, and I think I agree. If wearing the burqa were just a cultural phenomenon (and not rooted in some misogynistic, religiously based gender inequality), I find it rather hard to differentiate between wearing a burqa and some of the cultural phenomenon of the west, like wearing high heels, makeup and hair styles.

  69. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To changerofbits

    I think I already stated my end position – that I have to be against a ban on the wearing of the burqa no matter its history because of my adamant commitment to the principle of the right of self determination ala JS Mill. The arguments you make are just a few of many reasons that I have to adhere to this principle of self determination.

    As to some particulars:

    I don’t think the burqa is purely a symptom of oppression. It definitely is a tool of oppression. I think that a law that bans the public wearing of a burqa is not merely treating symptoms, but it is also treating proximate causes.

    However, I think it’s fair to say that the burqa is just one relatively minor aspect of many that is part of this massive cultural complex of the oppression of women.

    Another important question is whether such a policy would do more harm than good. As a matter of principles, I have to say yes, because I value self determination. Of course, another commenter above brought up that some women may face the severe risk of violence for not wearing the burqa, which means that passing that law puts these women in a real bind – the same women that this law is ostensibly trying to help.

    Finally, maybe this is unjustifiable cultural prejudice speaking out when I believe that there is a fundamental difference, or at least a drastic difference, between 1- high heels and makeup vs 2- a burqa. A burqa has the clear effect of social isolation which further increases their dependence and oppression. That’s not true for high heels and makeup. At least not anywhere to the same degree. Of course, my lack of certainty here is encompassed in my general position of the right of self determination.

    I’m not really sure what to do.

    I would love to brainstorm with people from the culture, esp. women, who have faced these issues, and who accept it as a problem like I do.

    Offhand, the only policies that I would want to pursue are:

    – Some sort of legal and police help for women who are facing violence for not wearing the burqa, including money to live in a new home, job training, a new identify ala witness protection, etc. However, I think this is small change compared to other policies we can do. However again, it might synergize well with my next proposal.

    – Dan Dennett’s awesome proposal of requiring a comparative religions course for all schoolchildren in all of the world’s modern contemporary popular religions, including their histories according to secular scholars and fundamentalist scholars, their creeds, etc. As Dennett says: Facts only, no preaching of values. Dennett is right that the awful practices of religion can survive only in ignorance, and a simple ongoing mandatory comparative religions class for all children seems to be an amazingly awesome solution that is moral, ethical, and legal (for the US at least).

    Does that answer your questions to your satisfaction? I hope so. If not, please bug me.

  70. nevilleneville says

    I think it may be a bit of a double standard to try and temper the ideas of people you aren’t fond of, and yet do nothing when those you do agree with can say what they want to who they want. Maybe those people who use words like “Evil” to describe people who mildly disagree with them need a check, not those being called the name.

  71. Muz says

    The Burqa thing in Australia was mainly down to the serial reactionary antics of surprisingly young right wing crank, federal senator Cory Bernardi. It’s like his favorite thing ever.

    As mentioned, it was never seriously considered, but got the nation talking on a couple of occasions. The idea did make people engage with the problem a little bit though, which was interesting.
    What you guys thought of came up almost immediately; when asked women expressed how they preferred it and how it made them feel more secure as well as being more ‘proper’ before god etc. People also immediately turned it around and said, by wearing the burqa,niqab, hijab etc they were freed, in a sense, from western expectations of beauty for women. They’d have to spend more on clothes and hair care and makeup just to go outside. Indeed, some said they’d probably want to go out less (not that in burqa cultures they go out all that much anyway).
    I think there’s a fair bit of post-hoc rejoinder wielding in that logic, rather than genuine feeling, but it’s an interesting point all the same.

    It all showed pretty much what was talked about here; that it’s a real can of worms from every direction. A liberal culture is being il-liberal about certain kinds of clothing and a specific religion (giving more credence to its religious symbolism while trying to destroy it). When restricting someone’s cultural identity like that (what they see as such anyway) you’re not going to liberate anyone and likely to cause more heels to be dug in than anything else, especially in the fractious ‘culture war’ atmosphere we have at the moment.
    So it doesn’t make any sense at all, unless you’re Cory Bernardi.

  72. Monocle Smile says

    @Muz
    Excellent points. You’re correct that you don’t liberate people by tearing off their burqas. You liberate them by making it okay and safe for them to take them off if they want and then waiting a generation or so.

  73. ironchops says

    I think I can agree with the position that, in of itself, wearing a burqa/hijab should not be banned but left up to the individual to decide. My question is: Why do people (women in this case) subject themselves to these type of sexist ideas? I can understand that there is a great deal of pressure in some regions of the world (Islamic states) but why in a state or country that protects the freedoms of people to express themselves would anyone adhere to this. Is the opposite of a burqa a stripper pole? Both completely sexist (I do know the stripper pole is mostly for money).
    I also wonder who is actually under that burqa. I can almost envision criminals wearing burqas to conceal their identity in order to commit crimes and then using their supposed religious values to not cooperate with the authorities and reveal there identity.

  74. ironchops says

    I live in Virginia and our trick or treat instructions (law) states that no adault can wear a mask that completely covers their face. What about burqas?

  75. says

    @81 EL (apologies for not referencing/attributing the last quote)

    Does that answer your questions to your satisfaction?

    Yes, and thank you. I’m pretty much in full agreement. Just one more comment on your comment:

    Offhand, the only policies that I would want to pursue are:

    – Some sort of legal and police help for women who are facing violence for not wearing the burqa, including money to live in a new home, job training, a new identify ala witness protection, etc. However, I think this is small change compared to other policies we can do. However again, it might synergize well with my next proposal.

    – Dan Dennett’s awesome proposal of requiring a comparative religions course for all schoolchildren in all of the world’s modern contemporary popular religions, including their histories according to secular scholars and fundamentalist scholars, their creeds, etc. As Dennett says: Facts only, no preaching of values. Dennett is right that the awful practices of religion can survive only in ignorance, and a simple ongoing mandatory comparative religions class for all children seems to be an amazingly awesome solution that is moral, ethical, and legal (for the US at least).

    Both are good ideas, and I’d say generalized the first for women facing violence of any kind and the second can also be generalized to just plain old general education (agreed that comparative religion is very important). I donate yearly to international organizations that help women who are facing domestic abuse and for comprehensive access to education for all women. After all, not wearing a burqa/hijab is just one of a myriad of issues for women who are fighting for emancipation in the Muslim world (and other places). And the correlation between the education/emancipation of women and socioeconomic improvement of a country is about as causal as things can get at that general of a level.

  76. says

    I live in Virginia and our trick or treat instructions (law) states that no adault can wear a mask that completely covers their face. What about burqas?

    I’m not an expert on burqas, but some at least don’t mask the eyes, so those would probably be okay under such a law. There are some that have sort of a mesh over the area around the eyes, so those are on par with the Darth Vader mask I wore for Halloween this year (good thing I don’t live in Virginia!). There’s always the “religious accommodation” thing to consider legally, where people are allowed to violate some laws due to their religious beliefs. I think it’s a silly thing, and as long as a law honestly passes the lemon test, there really shouldn’t be any religious accommodation. That said, I think that completely covering your face shouldn’t be against the law, though it could be used as reasonable suspicion for police to stop and question somebody (i.e. if you’re standing in the back alley of a bank at 3AM with a ski mask on, they police can stop you, but they can’t arrest you for, or charge you with, wearing a ski mask).

  77. Russell Glasser says

    > I’m not an expert on burqas, but some at least don’t mask the eyes, so those would probably be okay under such a law.

    It’s a reasonable guess, but incorrect. Went looking for those laws and found this: http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html

    “It shall be unlawful for any person over sixteen years of age while wearing any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, to be or appear in any public place, or upon any private property in this Commonwealth without first having obtained from the owner or tenant thereof consent to do so in writing.”

    …and then goes on to list a bunch of exceptions, like if it’s a “traditional holiday” (i.e. Halloween) or you’re an actor in a play, etc.

    The intent of the law appears to be to stop muggers and bank robbers from hiding their identity in public. Which is potentially a reasonable concern, although I guess worthy of some debate. Your point about passing the lemon test is a good one, although it’s an American rule and doesn’t apply to places like Australia.

    We have discussed similar issues to death on the Non-Prophets in the last few months, mainly regarding a case where a Canadian Mountie was granted permission to wear a turban rather than a traditional hat. Trying to stay consistent with how those discussions were resolved, here’s what I think. If there’s a law that has good secular reasons behind it, that would reasonably be read as banning burqas for sound secular reasons, then they should be enforced consistently and not make a special exception for a burqa. If it is reasonable to grant special accommodations for burqas, then maybe the law outlawing a whole class of head coverings is just a bad law in the first place, and should be overturned. But if you are banning JUST BURQAS, for no other reason than their association with Islam, that is a bad law that violates the lemon test.

    And again, while burqas are bad when they are used as a tool of oppression against women, just banning burqas is not going to be either necessary or sufficient to make people stop oppressing women. The laws should prohibit the actual bad behavior, not the side effects or symbols of that behavior.

  78. says

    The intent of the law appears to be to stop muggers and bank robbers from hiding their identity in public.

    And that’s the part that seems ridiculous about a “you can’t cover your face” law. Do we really think that muggers and bank robbers are going to worry about breaking a law forbidding them to cover their face while attempting to get away from said mugging/bank robbery? Talk about going after a symptom. Sheesh. The only thing that I can think of that makes this a bit more rational is that it’s another charge that could be filed against the perpetrator once caught, but that seems like added retribution and not justice to me.

    @86 Missed this before:

    I also wonder who is actually under that burqa. I can almost envision criminals wearing burqas to conceal their identity in order to commit crimes and then using their supposed religious values to not cooperate with the authorities and reveal there identity.

    Well, the legal line does stop at a refusal to be identified. Reasonable accommodations can be made, like taking a photo ID with a head covering (it’s silly, as in the spaghetti trainer hat guy silly, but reasonable as long as religion is a thing). Lot of FUD out there about this subject that looks a lot like bald Islamophobia, though:
    http://www.snopes.com/sharia-compliant-illinois-drivers-licenses/

  79. Monocle Smile says

    @changerofbits

    Do we really think that muggers and bank robbers are going to worry about breaking a law forbidding them to cover their face while attempting to get away from said mugging/bank robbery?

    No, but it certainly helps while looking at security footage before the crime to see who’s wandering around as the lookout or days before to see who’s casing the place. The kind of criminal who wears a mask to commit a robbery doesn’t exactly want to stand out before everything goes down.

  80. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    The part of me that doesn’t mind having its time wasted – it’s the part that controls eyebrow positioning – is seriously curious about what issue double standards are being invoked over… the rest of me doesn’t give a shit, but the eyebrow positioning bit is making my face go all eyebrowsy.

  81. RJ says

    Mustaffa from New Jersey should be teaching a post-graduate course in how to be an asshole. Can you imagine having to deal with someone like this on a daily basis.

  82. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Well, the legal line does stop at a refusal to be identified.

    Depending on exactly what you mean, thankfully only half of the US states have that particular tyrannical law. Specifically, in half the US states, if a cop demands to see your ID cards with basically no cause, it’s illegal to refuse. I’m not talking about driving. I’m talking about just walking on the sidewalk. AFAIK, you’re legally obliged to give name, date of birth, and address.

    Remember the old cliche of what is a police state? Boarding a train, with SS officers going one by one and saying “papers please”. That’s what this is. We should have the legal right to refuse to identify ourselves if the police lack cause, and in half the states we do (sort of – that’s a longer story).

  83. johnwolforth says

    Mustaffa from New Jersey should be teaching a post-graduate course in how to be an asshole. Can you imagine having to deal with someone like this on a daily basis.
    You mean there are places in the world where those assholes aren’t freaking everywhere? I’m trying an imagine such a paradise.

  84. sm1ddy says

    I enjoy the Atheist Experience but damn the hosts come off as condescending when they interrupt the caller’s initial point to say “Gee, I hope you’re not going to say X,Y,Z!” before the caller has even finished.

    Mustaffa was one strange call though…

  85. corwyn says

    How would people feel about a law to ban bikini tops (as in women had to go topless)?

    To me this seems analogous, but I am wondering if people have rational thoughts about the difference.

    Please no flames. This is an honest question. If this starts a flame war, please delete it moderators.

  86. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    I think dress codes in and of themselves are completely arbitrary, entirely driven by tradition, and completely culturally relative. I see no particular difference between 1- a law that bans the covering of genitals (both genders/sexes) on beaches, and 2- a law that requires the covering of genitals (both genders/sexes) on beaches, that can be drawn in a way independent of the culture and its particular historical accidents.

    In a certain strict sense, I think that one can make the argument that dress codes for public spaces – and even public indecency laws – are a violation of a person’s right to self determination. In that certain strict sense, I would be against laws that require people to wear certain kinds of clothes in public (or laws that simple requires wearing any clothes at all in public), and I would be against laws that require people to not wear certain forms of clothes in public.

    However, the cultural inertia is so large behind public dress codes and laws against public indecency, and the impact of these laws in general is seemingly so small, that I have decided that I have better things to spend my time on. However again, when there’s an element of racial or religious discrimination behind the dress codes, then I start caring deeply again, such as what is happening concerning potential laws that ban wearing a burka or hijab in public.

  87. osgi says

    wow, what a brutal week in mormonism … I have not even had the time to listen to last weeks episode, nor read the comments there.

    old cowboy song … “Lord they all must be Crazy out there”

  88. says

    I enjoy the Atheist Experience but damn the hosts come off as condescending when they interrupt the caller’s initial point to say “Gee, I hope you’re not going to say X,Y,Z!” before the caller has even finished.

    They do that because whenever they don’t, people come here complaining “It was obvious in ten seconds what his point was, so why did you let him ramble for so long?”

  89. Spoon says

    What a lousy mess. Get your act together Glassers. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind by snarkily implying their ideas aren’t even worth addressing or by changing the subject so that you can attack a person simply for being interested enough to call in.

  90. says

    @98 Thanks! I agree, and I didn’t really mean that as as anything other than applying to existing laws regarding identification (however flawed the existing law might be).

    @103 Well, I think it’s valid to make a special case for faces vs other body parts, since faces are the primary feature that we use to identify each other. Our brains are wired from infancy to do it. Obviously, other body parts can be used to identify somebody and I don’t deny that breasts are one of parts, I’m just saying that it doesn’t really compete with a face in terms of identification.

  91. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    since faces are the primary feature that we use to identify each other. Our brains are wired from infancy to do it.

    Agreed. It’s really amazing how much emotional state you can get just from eye gaze and the eye region (upper nose to lower forehead). IIRC most people can distinguish about 140 emotional states just from seeing that portion of the face.

    I’m just saying that it doesn’t really compete with a face in terms of identification.

    I guess I just don’t take that as a serious argument. Specifically, arguing that it should be illegal to wear ski masks in public in order to act as a deterrence and/or to help catch criminals after the fact – I don’t take that seriously. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I should take it seriously. It just seems so had hoc and ineffective.

  92. says

    I guess I just don’t take that as a serious argument. Specifically, arguing that it should be illegal to wear ski masks in public in order to act as a deterrence and/or to help catch criminals after the fact – I don’t take that seriously. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I should take it seriously. It just seems so had hoc and ineffective.

    I’m with you. If I were robbing a bank, I would respect a face covering law about as much as I’d respect a speed limit law. And speed limit laws are justified independently of a bank robbery, the same can’t really be said of face covering laws.

  93. phil says

    Wrt the burqa discussion, it is a complicated issue. A liberal society is not a society where anything goes, it is still governed by laws. Laws reflect not only philosophical positions but also local needs and desires. For example, if a society were suddenly faced with hordes of suicide bombers roaming the streets looking for targets, then a lot of us might think that a shoot-to-kill law might be reasonable. That’s an extreme and thankfully unlikely scenario, and I present it purely for illustration.

    In a liberal society we should pass laws and regulations based on whether they will achieve some desired end, not only to defend our cherished beliefs. For example, if affirative action can be demonstrated to improve the lot of disadvantaged minorities then perhaps it should be implemented, even though it might infringe the rights of a priveleged majority. It would depend on the balance of good vs bad effects.

    Cory Bernardi. What can I say? He would not look out of place as a Republican presidential nominee, a bit like Rick Santorum but maybe not as pleasant. He is in the Liberal Party, but that certainly doesn’t mean he is a liberal. Part of the great relief that came with the recent regime change in Oz (apart from the fact that now it seems that more adults are in charge) is that the hard right factions, including Bernadi, have been sent to the back of the class.

  94. phil says

    Russel no. 91: “The laws should prohibit the actual bad behavior, not the side effects or symbols of that behavior.”

    Mmmm ahhh mmmmmm. While not exactly the same I think this is close… in Oz it is usually illegal to harm or kill anyone (and often animals too) with a firearm. However the law also strictly controls the carrying of firearms in public, and even the ownership of firearms. From what I read I think there are many citizens of the US who wish similar restrictions existed in their country as well. One of the common arguments against such restrictions is that it is people that kill people, implying that frequent gun violence is merely a side effect of the broad ownership of firearms and the right to carry them in public. After all, if there were no guns in the USA there would be no gun violence.

    Laws should do a lot of things, including prevent crime and reducing harm, and if that is achieved by controlling side effects or symbols of behaviour then they should be considered.

    In the specific case of burqas, Jerry Coyne has described conversations with liberal young women in Turkey who welcome bans on the burqa, because otherwise those who choose not to wear them are described as not being good muslims. I’ve also heard reports that some women suffer vitamin D deficiency because they are not exposed to enough sunlight. Curiously not all muslim women wear burqas, so I question whether it is really a muslim thing, or simply a habit of some muslim cultures.

  95. phil says

    Changer @ 92: “Do we really think that muggers and bank robbers are going to worry about breaking a law forbidding them to cover their face while attempting to get away from said mugging/bank robbery?”

    No, that is not the point. The point is that if we see someone hiding their face we know they are breaking the law and are probably up to no good, so we can take action to defend ourselves, or a policeman could stop them and maybe arrest them.

    Laws are intended to act in many ways, for punishment, for prevention (or at least discouragement), as a statement of our philosophical/moral beliefs.

  96. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Curiously not all muslim women wear burqas, so I question whether it is really a muslim thing, or simply a habit of some muslim cultures.

    You’re playing a “no true Muslim” game. Please don’t. There is no one true form of Islam, just like there is no one true form of Christianity. There’s Catholics and Protestants and Mormons. In Islam, there are subsets where wearing a burqa is part of Islam, and in other areas it is not part of Islam.

    Now, if you want to discuss this from a historical anthropological perspective, then I might admit to right and wrong answers, and that would be an interesting conversation. Of course, it might not. Still, even if you can show that burqa wearing was originally a cultural practice apart from Islam that somehow got appropriated from Islam, it is a fact that today, wearing the burqa is part of Muslim religious practices for certain subsets of Islam. Religion is more than just what the holy book says.

    One of my firm positions is that it’s wrong-headed to conceptually separate religion from culture. Religion is but one aspect of culture. A particular religious practice is a cultural practice. Hypothetically, if one said that wearing the burqa is a cultural practice, that is not a denial that it’s a religious practice. In other words, trying to draw bright dividing lines between religious practices and non-religious practices is can be hard, and sometimes often foolish and IMHO motivated by the desire of the speaker to blame religion entirely (often wrong-headed) and to ensure that religion is entirely blameless (often wrong-headed).

  97. phil says

    EL: “You’re playing a “no true Muslim” game.”

    I don’t believe I am. It’s a point Heicart has brought up on occasion, that some people hold that some of their cultural practices come from their religion, whereas they have a quite different source but were adopted by many in their religion. Because they spend their whole lives immersed in their religion they cannot think of these practices as being separate from it.

    Besides, I make no claim as to what does or does not make a true muslim. I am inclined to agree that “there is no one true form of Islam”. I am simply making the observation that many muslims do not wear burqas and that lead to me to wonder if the source of the habit (Ha! Ha!) was religion or something else. If, hypothetically, burqa wearing was something introduced two thousand years ago in regions that later became predominantly muslim then how is it a muslim custom? It is a custom of some muslims, yes, but that is not the same thing IMO.

    I’ve heard that in some parts of east Africa there are muslim communities that raise pigs, to eat. This happened because that was their custom before Islam arrived, and the stuck with it. Now you wouldn’t say that eating pork was a muslim custom, and you wouldn’t play the “no true Muslim” game, surely. I broadly agree with your last par, but I think it would be equally wrong-headed to say that the two were not occasionally separable.

    A lot of theists don’t seem to believe that one can be moral without god, but I’m pretty sure that you’d accept that morality, although it may arise in a religious environment, and may even be influenced by religion, is not really the product of religion but it is the product of society, of culture.

  98. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Now you wouldn’t say that eating pork was a muslim custom, and you wouldn’t play the “no true Muslim” game, surely.

    When you ask these people the question “does your god command you to eat pigs?”, the answer would be “no”. That’s the difference.

    I don’t believe I am. It’s a point Heicart has brought up on occasion, that some people hold that some of their cultural practices come from their religion, whereas they have a quite different source but were adopted by many in their religion. Because they spend their whole lives immersed in their religion they cannot think of these practices as being separate from it.

    That is textbook “no true Scotsman”. You still have this wrong-headed notion that there is one true form of Islam that is eternal and never-changing. It doesn’t matter what people of their culture practiced 200 years ago. It doesn’t matter if the burqas was an invention of some other culture which was imported 200 years ago. That’s entirely irrelevant to the discussion “is it a religious practice?”. The only thing that matters is the honest and correct answer to the question “Do you do this because your god commands you to?”.

  99. says

    No, that is not the point. The point is that if we see someone hiding their face we know they are breaking the law and are probably up to no good, so we can take action to defend ourselves, or a policeman could stop them and maybe arrest them.

    Laws are intended to act in many ways, for punishment, for prevention (or at least discouragement), as a statement of our philosophical/moral beliefs.

    I thought I’d just ask you to read the rest of the thread, but here are my main points in response to folks who feel threatened by the burqa (not that you are, but you’re arguing for that side):

    1. The police can already use the fact that someone is covering their face as a factor in establishing reasonable suspicion of a crime. If we don’t make covering your face illegal, a cop (and everybody else) is going to be suspicious of a person with sheer leggings pulled over their head while walking into a bank. It’s the context of covering their face that makes it suspicious, not the face covering itself.

    2. The only way a law banning face covering that seems to have some utility is charging someone with an additional crime who is also being charged with another crime committed in close proximity. Covering your face while committing another crime should be used as evidence that the crime was premeditated, which will generally garner additional punishment (at least with murder), without making covering your face a crime in and of itself. “What are the charges? Grand larceny, reckless driving, driving without a license, resisting arrest and covering of the face.” One of these things is not like the other.

    3. Given that such a law would further oppress some Muslim women, the societal/moral effect is almost entirely negative. Sure, this means tolerating some religious wackiness, like how we aren’t making co-habitation illegal to go after the FLDS, or not ticketing the Amish for not having turn signal lights on their buggies, or not forcing Haredi boys to take trigonometry. None of these are a direct parallel for the burqa, but they fit into the “well, this thing these religious folks are doing is problematic, but it shouldn’t be illegal” class of issue.

  100. phil says

    EL, I present the instance of muslims eating pork as an example of the fact that there is NOT one “true” Islam. I certainly DO NOT “have this wrong-headed notion that there is one true form of Islam that is eternal and never-changing.” I never wrote that I did, you incorrectly inferred it from what I wrote. I was wondering whether the SOURCE of the custom was Islamic teaching or, as Tracie has described other practices, something else. I was merely raising the question, “Is the origin religious practice or something else?”

    Nowhere did I make any pronouncement on what is or is not a true muslim and nor would I, I simply don’t know enough about it. I do not believe there is “one true Islam.”

    And no, an honest answer to your question is not the only thing that matters in every circumstance. If for example, someone is studying the history then the source of the practice is important. Furthermore if it can be conclusively demonstrated that wearing a burqa really has NO Islamic justification then wearers should find some other reason to justify it. After all, “because of my religion” is an excuse which is remarkably persuasive (although it shouldn’t).

    Actually I’ve read that one quite powerful reason for wearing head covering is social pressure, so a lot of women might answer “Because others will say I am not a good Muslim if I don’t.”

  101. phil says

    @ changer no.121

    I did read the thread, at least up to your comment that I was responding to.

    “but you’re arguing for that side”

    Well I think it is a complex issue that was not getting an adequate airing. As I have said before, if the streets were suddenly flooded with suicide bombers wearing burqas and looking for targets, then it would seem pretty reasonable to pass laws forbidding the wearing of burqas in public and simply shooting burqa wearers on sight. I hope that never comes to pass, but the point I am trying to make is that we are not arguing that this is obviously an outright bad or good thing, but the question of where we draw the line. That line, I contend, will depend on local circumstances and conditions, the resources to hand, and what we determine is fair and just.

    Franklin’s quote “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both” is simply wrong, as demonstrated in practice. Virtually every society has a police force and its purpose is to enforce laws that frequently limit our freedoms, and in return we have greater liberty, through a safer society for starters. We have tried the scenario where everyone exercised their liberty as they saw fit, and it was brutal (go read Pinker).

    “The police can already…”

    That depends almost entirely on the jurisdiction and the local laws.

    ‘”Grand larceny, reckless driving, driving without a license, resisting arrest and covering of the face.” One of these things is not like the other.’

    Ummm, grand larceny? The other four seem to be physical acts unlike the first. Anyway, as it is now there are signs in banks that direct bike riders to remove their helmets. I’m unaware how this is reflected in local law (I live in Australia). As it is your example displays what already happens, that accused are frequently charged with several offences, and what often seems to happen is that the minor charges are dropped if the most serious charge is upheld. Furthermore sentences can be served concurrently, so the net effect is that the offender only has a charge registered against them. I have mixed feelings about extra charges, it will have good and bad effects.

    “Given that such a law would further oppress some Muslim women, the societal/moral effect is almost entirely negative.”

    Jerry Coyne reported of conversations with women in Turkey that suggest the opposite, that banning head coverings removes social pressure to wear head covering. In some countries there are bands of thugs who roam the streets to enforce religious dictates.

    One thing I note is that circumstances are different in different countries. For example, judging by media reports the US does not seem to have a significant muslim population (proportionally at least), and does not seem to have the same problems with extremist muslim elements. We have some fine muslims in Oz, the sort of person anyone would want as a citizen of their country.

    We also have some ratbags you wouldn’t want. Just over a year ago there was a siege in cafe in central Sydney. In the end three people were killed. The offender seems to have been a sandwich short of a picnic, but he claimed some association with ISIS (I think ISIS might have denied this).

    A couple of months ago a 14 yo youth somehow got a gun and murdered a police employee who was just leaving work. The youth was shot dead by police. It seems he was radicalised by people who attended a local mosque, and he acquired the gun at the mosque.

    There have been radicalised muslims who have left the country, illegally, to fight with ISIS. There is concern about them if they return, although mostly they seem to die over there. We have white Anglo-Saxon ratbags too, rednecks, white supremicists, etc.

  102. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To phil in 122
    Still fundamentally disagreeing. You’re still making the same errors.

    Furthermore if it can be conclusively demonstrated that wearing a burqa really has NO Islamic justification then wearers should find some other reason to justify it. After all, “because of my religion” is an excuse which is remarkably persuasive (although it shouldn’t).

    You’re (hypothetical?) argument is still relying on the assumption that there is one true form of Islam. In other words, you’re still assuming that there are right and wrong answers. In order to argue “wearing the burqa has no justification in the teachings and doctrines of ‘true’ Islam”, you need to assume that there is such a thing as true Islam.

    Should you use the Haddith? Oral tradition? Which dynasty do you follow – Shia or Sunni (or some other alternative)? What method of interpretation should you use? How should you weight the different passages? What context is important in interpreting those passages? Is Islam only the teachings of the prophet, or is it also accumulated knowledge of all Islam scholars since then? Why should your method of interpretation be any more important than someone else’s? When the entire enterprise is arguing about fiction, you’re building an argument on a house of cards. It’s all sophistry.

    Maybe you’ll be able to convince someone based on sophisticated theology, aka sophistry. However, I personally want nothing to do with it.

    Further, as a matter of anthropology, it’s very bad form to argue that one form of Islam is the right form and another form of Islam is a wrong form. I agree that there are right and wrong answers about where particular cultural practices come from, but as a matter of academic anthropology, those answers are entirely irrelevant to the formal academic question “is it a part of their religion”? Anything else is bad formal anthropology, aka bad science, because all of religion was invented sometime out of whole cloth, and no form of religion has any bearing whatsoever to being the true form of religion. Maybe if you meant “Islam according to the original founder Mohamed”, but then I suspect very much of Islam today would not have justification according to that standard. Dittos for a hypothetical standard “Christianity according to the founder Paul”.

  103. phil says

    EL, FFS!! I have at no time made any judgement about what does or does not count as “true Islam”. I certainly do not hold to a view that there is only one “true Islam”. I am quite aware that there are different sects of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and that none has any authority over the others to decide what is “true” or not. (By contrast various sects of the Abrahmic religions do make claims about the one true form of their religion, and most of those claims must be wrong which leads one to the fairly sensible view that probably they are all wrong.)

    I am not making any errors you think I am, you are in misunderstanding what I am writing. I am not presenting any position on whether head coverings are genuinely Islamic, I AM ASKING A QUESTION ABOUT THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE CUSTOM! Really, that’s all!

    Given that not all muslim women wear head covering, and given that some christian women wear head covering, it is not IMO unreasonable to speculate that the practice originated before Islam was invented, and that perhaps it did not originate from the Quran or Islamic teaching at all, but might have originated elsewhere, taken simply as a sign of one’s piety or faith, and was adopted and modified by some muslim communities (perhaps to accomodate local climatic conditions for example).

    “You’re [sic] (hypothetical?) argument is still relying on the assumption that there is one true form of Islam.”

    No it doesn’t, it could easily be accomodated by any number of “true form[s] of Islam”. The “no true scotsman” accusation is baseless. I am not trying to dictate what makes a true muslim, I am suggesting that it is possible to be a good muslim without a burqa, as evidenced by millions of muslims who do not wear burqas but still consider themselves good muslims. Christians gave up slavery, why can’t muslims give up burqas, or any number of bad practices?

    I’ll make it simple for you: “You can be a good muslim without a burqa” is not the same as “no good muslim women would (or not) wear a burqa”. One describes what a scotsman can or might do, whereas the “no good scotsman” fallacy is about what a scotsman must or must not do. Can you see a difference there? One is a statement about what is possible, what is allowable, the other is a dictate about what must be.

    If it were possible to demonstrate that wearing a burqa is not a prerequisite to being a “good” or “true” muslim (and it is except for muslims who resort to the “no true scotsman” fallacy) then it might be possible to wean burqa wearers off the custom. That would be positive progress for muslim women around the globe. It would help to dismantle religion as a social force.

    Wearing head covering for religious reasons is, IMO, socially regressive. Whether done voluntarily or not it indicates submission to an authoritarian misogynistic culture which really doesn’t belong in the 21st century, whether it be muslim, jewish, or christian.

    Gimme a break. Criticise me for what I wrote, not what you think I wrote.

  104. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    EL, FFS!! I have at no time made any judgement about what does or does not count as “true Islam”.

    Yes, you are. See here:

    conclusively demonstrated that wearing a burqa really has NO Islamic justification

    That’s exactly what that’s doing. You’re trying to put Islam in a box, and say that there are objectively right and wrong answers about what is in and outside the box. That box of right answers is the fallacious “one true Islam”.

    I AM ASKING A QUESTION ABOUT THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE CUSTOM! Really, that’s all!

    Then use better language. I am not a mind-reader. “The origin of the custom” does not include “conclusively demonstrated that wearing a burqa really has NO Islamic justification”.

  105. phil says

    That’s a seriously dishonest misquote. I wrote “if it can be conclusively demonstrated that wearing a burqa really has NO Islamic justification.”

    If you can’t deal honestly with your interlocutors it would be better if you said nothing.

    Ok, maybe if I had expressed myself differently you might not have misunderstood my meaning, but since I have since explained what I meant the polite thing would be to admit you simply misunderstood. Ok so you’re are not a mind reader, then since you accept that limitation then perhaps you should be prepared to entertain other interpretations of what is said or written.

    In spite of the fact that I specifically wrote that I do not believe that there is one true form of Islam, you persisted in saying that I did. That is either stupid or dishonest. As you admit, you can’t read my mind, so the best authority on my thoughts and beliefs is me, so when I write that I do not believe that there is one true form of Islam, the smartest thing for you to do is accept it as fact, without dishonestly trying to prove otherwise.

  106. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m not here to tell you what you really think. I corrected what you actually said. Intent is not magic, and your words stand alone.

  107. phil says

    EL 128: “I’m not here to tell you what you really think.”

    But that’s almost what you did at 120: “You still have this wrong-headed notion that there is one true form of Islam…”

    And then again, although I had explained otherwise, at 126: “You’re trying to put Islam in a box, and say that there are objectively right and wrong answers about what is in and outside the box.”

    Your words stand alone.

    “I corrected what you actually said.” No, I don’t think you did. You skipped off on a tangent because you misunderstood what I wrote. Then to bolster your case you misrepresented what I wrote.

    Anyway, your accusation that I am using the “no true Scotsman” fallacy is exactly arse backwards. My argument was that if not all muslims accept the burqa as an essential observance, then convincing burqa wearers that one can be a good muslim without wearing a burqa might be a good thing. Of course, that argument could only have merit if one accepted that there is NOT “one true form of Islam” but many, it sinks or swims on that fact. That much is pretty obvious.

    But furthermore, my arguments were conditional. You should have noticed that I used “if”. That makes quite a difference. Let me explain: “if A then B” is not a statement about the outright truth of A or B, and it is the form I presented my argument, WITHOUT any assertion as to the truth or falsity of A or B.

    We have an expression down here which you may have heard: when you’re in a hole stop digging. Now for some reason that you haven’t explained you misunderstood what I was saying, which is innocent enough. However, in spite of clarifying the issue and explicitly pointing out that I do not believe what you thought I did, you have persisted, you seem to lack the perspicacity and grace to understand when to stop.

    FWIW, I believe that wearing a burqa (or any face covering) in public is an antisocial act (although there are perfectly good reasons to cover your face in some circumstances), and that wearing a burqa is a symbol of oppresion of women if not an outright act of oppression. If there were some way to reduce the practice that would be a good thing for muslim women, both those who do wear the burqa and those who do not.

    Give it up EL, you were wrong about me from the start and nothing you have written in the interim has corrected that.

  108. Athywren - This Thing Is Just A Thing says

    I realise that, in text conversations, time isn’t really the most important factor, but if you get to the point where it’s taking a month to say, essentially, “Nuh-uh!”
    “Yuh-huh!”
    “Nuh-uh!”
    Maybe it’s time to just let the conversation die?